Poor Taylor Hall.
His cringe-inducing freak accident during a pre-game skate and its result has reignited debate about whether hemets should be worn during warm-ups.
For those not familiar, the 20-year old former number one draft pick for the Oilers was the victim of a horrific on-ice accident where he suffered a skate blade to the head that required 32 stitches. His handsome young face transformed into a zombie movie character with a ghastly cut snaking down from his hairline to his eyebrow.
Suddenly the face of the franchise has taken an ugly turn for the worse.
Safe to say Hall’s mangled mug won’t be appearing on any Oiler promotional material anytime soon.
Let’s hope the advances of modern medicine can restore him to some sense of normalcy. He deserves that much as a young man in the public eye with his whole hockey career and life before him.
The freak incident has sparked discussion about whether NHLers should wear helmets during pre-game warm-ups. The pre-game skate has traditionally been the one time where, for at least a brief time, players can go “topless” like their fathers’ and grand-fathers’ NHL. Seeing faces simply creates a better fan connection but somewhat sadly for safety’s sake, that may become a thing of the past.
Would wearing a helmet and visor have spared Hall from this trauma?
Almost certainly — or greatly reduced the severity of it. Some teams have a policy of wearing head and face protection at all times and others are now considering it. Until now it’s always been the players’ decision. But after the Hall accident that option may be taken out of their hands.
If you’ve ever been to an NHL game, warm-ups are a time when players work out the kinks, take/test shots. This is mostly done on auto-pilot as they prep for the game.
But despite their casual routines, warm-ups can be dangerous places. Pucks flying everywhere and players sometimes take it too casually, not paying particular attention. It’s a place where you really have to keep your head up. Still, no one in their wildest imagination could’ve possibly anticipated what happened to Hall — a perfect storm of bad luck, timing and a questionable decision by his teammate Corey Potter to try to jump over the pile-up instead of stopping or crashing into them. But hindsight is 20-20. Shit happens.
It just goes to show that sometimes the worst injuries can come from your own teammates in the most mundane circumstances. Yet this one in a million accident may do more to change the culture of player safety than a 10-game suspension and hefty fine handed out by the league.
The relative good news is that Hall was back in uniform Saturday night against Calgary. If you ask me, it seems a bit early. With an injury that severe and the Oilers essentially going nowhere this season, what’s the rush? I didn’t like seeing that.
Hockey players and franchises often, despite logic dictating otherwise, adhere to a macho culture that can cause more harm by having an athlete return too soon. For what could have been a life-threatening injury, Hall missed all of one game.
Haven’t we learned from players being rushed back after concussions only to make things worse for themselves later and ending their careers prematurely? Never ask a player if he’s okay to play — he’ll almost always say yes. An organization needs to take their team’s medical advice to heart. A player might be “cleared” to play but that’s the minimal acceptable standard. Wouldn’t it be wiser to take a little more time to see if there could be unanticipated complications? And wouldn’t you take extra care with your franchise player?
I question the wisdom of the Oilers management in Hall’s case. This was a traumatic hockey accident suffered by a young star player who was likely on some pain medication, anti-biotics and who knows what else to combat an infection on a still-healing massive gash on his head. With the Oilers 16 points out of a playoff spot going into the Calgary game and depleted by injuries, they’re in tough. The young team is simply going to have to take its lumps. Why take unnecessary risks with a star player?
CBC announcers admired Hall’s “grit” and “character” for being back so soon. His parents were probably horrified.
Wonder what broadcasters would be saying if, with that freshly stitched up gash, he took another blow to the head? Or if his sutures had ripped apart, exposing him to infection. Would they be praising his character then?
More like how could the Oilers be so careless with the star of their franchise.
But that’s the way it goes, doesn’t it.